A Teacher's Day

The day in the life of an inner city large urban school district teacher after the high stakes testing ends and there is still three more months left before summer vacation.

Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

I have taught school for over thirty years always in the inner city and for the most part always upper grade students. I have two children and I have been married for twenty years.

Friday, November 03, 2006


Every year the Chicago Public Schools have a Principal for the Day Program. I believe it’s to get outside corporations and people interested in helping the schools—adopting them, sponsoring programs. You get the idea.

My school has had quite a few from Alderman Dorothy Tillman (who came, left, had lunch, and never returned) to a representative from ComEd (Chicago’s electric giant) who likewise was never seen again—even though the representative promised a free field trip.

This year Nike came. Six people strong. They spoke to us before school, did a walk through in the morning, and went to lunch in the afternoon—because that’s part of the program. (I’ve always wondered how much money would be saved if money wasn’t spent on honoring everyone—a banquet for donating money to a cause, for example. Wouldn’t it be nice if the money spent on the banquet went instead to the cause? But then I guess we’re all ego driven and we need these recognition pats on the back.) Anyway the Nike representatives came into the classrooms and talked to the children.

How cool was that!

Six individuals of color coming into my classroom and telling my students how they really got to where they are. Oboi Reed came into my room. He had a brilliant presentation. He motivated my students through his words and even more, through his voice.

“Did you finish college?” he was asked.

There was a pause. He placed his hands to his face. He looked at the questioner. “No,” he said, a “no” so simple it added to the silence of the room. “No, I didn’t. No,…I didn’t…No, I didn’t.”

There was so much emotion in his voice, the entire class was forced to look up at him.

He’s in college now, he told my students, and when he has children, he will make sure each and everyone of them goes to college and gets a double major. He’s already a successful executive doing a job he loves (he told us this more than once) and he is back in school.

One of my students began a debate with him on his use of the word “believe”. To her, just having the will to believe was not enough. She needed more. She needed to understand everyone has bumps in the road on the way to their goal. And what did Oboi Reed do? He gave her his cell phone number and email address and told her to let him know how she was doing. He told her that he was committed to her success, that she can find a vision, that all you need is to believe.

His cell phone number? His email address? (Oboi Reed doesn’t know this, but she has my home number if she ever needs assistance with her school work or has a need to discuss some other kind of problem. And she does call me. Along with her two sisters and one brother.)

Oboi Reed is the kind of person I want to assist in my classroom. This is the kind of man I want to mentor my students.

At the morning meeting, I asked about mentoring. A few years ago I wrote a grant to BP. It was funded over a two year period—twenty thousand the first year and ten the second. A major part of the grant was a mentoring program with BP. We received the money, but never the mentors. (A little aside to this tale: I have continued the science program they funded and each year my seventh graders do better and better on their standardized tests. This year we scored a 97.4% on the science portion of the ISAT—the Illinois standardized test.) So I asked Nike if they were a one shot wonder, too, or would they be coming back and assisting us. Perhaps as mentors.

They’re coming back on Friday, November 10th. Coming to my classroom. They’re going to assist me with my healthy habitat project—also funded by a grant (DonorsChoose). And then they will be returning regularly. This is not a one shot project, they told us. We are making a commitment.

So I want to thank NIKE in advance.

Thank you.

PS. Let me thank the other members of the team who also made a commitment to my school:

Toni Bailey
Sean Forde
Michelle Geddes
Daryl Jones
Oboi Reed
Vince Watkins


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